Category Archives: dating

How Women are Conditioned to be Raped

“No means no.”

I’ve spent my entire life struggling to stand up for myself. I’ve always been sensitive, and thoughtful towards people’s opinions and feelings. To some extent I think I care a little too much about what others think; I’m too thoughtful towards people who don’t matter. I backbend to appease strangers, and second guess the way I word messages to people who probably won’t remember them. I think I grew up to become a “People Pleaser.” Not a “Yes man,” I’m not scared of having opinions, but I care too much about how those opinions impact people.  So much so that I compromise myself so others won’t feel bad.

I don’t consider this a noble thing, in fact in ways I think it can be more cowardly than anything. Ghosting slowly after first dates, replying to messages, entertaining hope even though I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Which leads me to my second problem, I think I’ve internalized that I may not know what’s best for me. I have issues trusting my own intuition, even though it’s right more often than not. I end up dating the worst people, and being in the worst situations because I assume the little voice in my head is just me being “too sensitive.” 

I won’t blame everything on race and gender, I think it’s important to take the onus of our personality traits (or at least try to). At 11-years-old I recall being in Winn-Dixie with my mother. My little black hands grasped on to the cool metal of the grocery store cart. I don’t remember what my mother was talking about exactly, not that it probably mattered. What I do remember was the feeling I had when she mentioned “White people.” I felt like all ears and eyes would be on us if she said it any louder, I was fearful of the conflict that could occur if someone was offended. At 11-years-old I was trying to preserve the comfort of all the White faces in the store that day, as well as feeling a strong desire to ensure my mother’s safety.

As the years passed I grew to understand my mother’s frustration, and would eventually inherit it with age. Isn’t it funny what we inherit? Frustration, rage, sadness. I have Brown skin, I assume my ancestors were forced to appease White people. Forced to whisper words about them, forced to wear masks so as to see another day. I won’t pretend to know exactly what that feels like, I’m oppressed but not the same type of oppressed as they were. The oppression I face is more social suicide, meets “accidental murder.” If I lash out, talk too loud, and my lips fall short of a smile, I’ll receive a label.

“Mad Black Woman,” because any woman with a working mouth must be mad. “Overly sensitive and over-analytical,” because my existence takes too long to digest. I think became a people pleaser for a lot of reasons, survival being one of the top ones. Women who scream too loud get silenced, and Black folks get killed. It’s the worst type of humbling, the type that pushes you into a “sunken place.” The type of Sunken place Black men don’t write about, because they aren’t in it. The type of sunken place that our momma warn us about “don’t be wearing that, you’ll attract the wrong type of attention.” The type of sunken place that we don’t talk about, that we can’t talk about.

I think if I were a Cis Straight White Man I would speak a lot louder, express my opinions even if they were unasked for. Spread my legs on the subway, and drive fast on the freeway. But I’m not, I’m not a Cis-Het White Man, I’m a Trans-Pan-Black Woman (gender fluid). I know nothing other than my black face, and thick lips. I am still teaching myself to say “No,” at risk of being deemed a “Mad Black Woman.” If only I were that privileged. This piece isn’t a call to action, I have no intention of stirring up a protest. This piece has no answers because the question itself is difficult to comprehend. This piece does challenge you all to really consider what sunken place you may live in, maybe your sunken place is about poverty, or physical ability, or even sexuality. Think about how often you’ve reached into the air to grasp onto words that fell on deaf ears; think about how you would describe the color and the taste of an orange to someone who’s never seen one. They might think you mad, wouldn’t they?

I think a lot of America’s problem with social issues (Race, gender, sexuality, etc) isn’t that we aren’t talking about it (in most cases), but that we aren’t understanding it. We don’t challenge ourselves to go out of our own world. We are too fixated on things that bother us, and we refuse to have empathy for other people. To actually touch on the title of this piece, I believe that the very moment that I was born as a woman I have been expected to be comfortable with my sunken place. Older men would stare at my undeveloped body, drunken men would figure they could take a grab if they wanted to. If I spoke up, I’d be a prude. My first boyfriend told me he felt like it’s a wife’s duty to make sure her husband is sexually satisfied, my grandmother taught me I need to make sure I look good for my man. When I am with men, I am expected to be the referee. “Stop, no, I said no, fuck man I said no!” Are words I’m never bold enough to express because when I am with men I’m expected to also be “polite.” Bitch is such an ugly word, and my grandma made me feel like I as a woman am supposed to be pretty. Bitch is such an ugly word, and what would if I scream too loud? What happens when a woman screams too loud, or a black person, or a Black woman even?

To be fair, on the flip side I feel like young men are conditioned to be rapists. Not only by society but because of individual interactions as well. “What the fuck? You don’t want to fuck me? You must be gay.” I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a man, that’s just not how I identify. But I have observed the irony in unpacking rape culture. I have observed in theory we encourage quotes like “No means No” and “Ask first.” But what happens when someone does want to ask about everything, are they then considered un-sexy? What of the men who find no particular interest in being sexual aggressors, are they then deemed submissive and undesirable? As a little girl, I recall being fed this idea that the man I want would be like Beast from Beauty and the Beast. That I was supposed to deal with all the horrible ways he presented himself, and it was my job to teach him how to treat me. I think we are all bounded by expectations, by roles we are told we are supposed to fulfill. I don’t think this is an issue with men or women, I think this is an issue with society. How do we deviate from society if we are still holding onto our tribalistic nature? As individuals, I think the answer is going out of our comfort zone. But as a society, maybe the answer can reveal itself with a little more understanding.

The 6 Things I Did Wrong in Dating

You meet someone, and they have you caught up in shock cause they are just “fione.” They smell good, they feel good, and they make you feel good. The first date has you feeling intoxicated, the sex leaves you having flashbacks at your day job. Everything seems like it’s going great, you’re on cloud nine. Flash forward, and you’re sobbing into your pillow wondering how the hell you got here. What did you miss? How do you go from feeling so amazed by a person to absolutely crushed by the reality of who they are? I’ve had this scenario play out far too many times than I’m proud to admit. As I transform in the Woman I want to be I think it’s important to grow from your mistakes, so here are the 6 things I did wrong in Dating:

  • I dated people who liked me, not valued me

I think it’s easy to get caught up. To be infatuated by how easy it is to laugh with someone, and how magical it feels to fit into the small parts of their bodies. It’s so easy to feel like when someone likes you, and if you like them back then that’s special. But the feeling of liking and being liked is so fleeting. It’s sorta like music, sometimes we are ALL about “I Like it” by Cardi B, but then BAM, “Chun-Li” by Nicki Minaj comes on. It’s very possible that songs (and people) will always have a special place in our heart, but the songs (and people) we hold onto are the ones we truly value. Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” will always be classics. When you date someone I’ve learned you should keep dating them, don’t commit, at least not until you’re a classic in their book.

  • I was way too passive

I can definitely recall a significant amount of times when I’ve had sex with people when I didn’t really feel into it (completely consensual), and I agreed to committment when in the back of my head I was not ready. I think I chose more of a back seat role because I lacked faith in my ability to be right. I’d trust everyone else’s intuition instead of trusting my own. I think in a lot of relationships I compromise my beliefs and values because they deviate from the norm. I think I know exactly what I want in a person, good looking, funny, respectful, a thoughtful, and opened minded person. I wanted someone who was experimental in the bedroom, someone who was open to trying things like polyamory. Someone who got me. I think I passively accepted that my ideas and wants were “out there,” so instead of staying true to myself I fit into the box that others wanted me to fit into.

  • I didn’t believe people when they told me who they were

When I was younger someone once told me “Boys will tell you EXACTLY how they will hurt you before they hurt you, you just have to listen for it.” I can definitely say that most guys I’ve dated have probably alluded to being called “assholes” or hinted to having issues they were trying to get over. I think when you like someone it’s REALLY easy to take passive hints, put them in a suitcase in the back of your mind, and never revisit them until AFTER you get hurt. But follow me for a second, after a relationship we all kinda have an idea of where we went wrong. After being in numerous relationships we have an idea of our pattern/toxic behaviors. Maybe out of guilt some people will drop passive hints to suggest what they’ll end up doing to you, but I think it’s very important to pay close attention to how people describe their past behaviors in relationships (not just romantic).

  • I believed that their exes were “crazy”

Look Y’all, I do believe that some people really do be doing the ABSOLUTE most. That being said, you have to ask yourself two important questions: Why is this person crazy and Why did they date this crazy person? We all seek out people for a reason, and sometimes it isn’t because we ourselves are abusive (but sometimes it is). What my ex’s ex taught me was, people who have issues with themselves may go after people who make them feel better about themselves. Examples can be if someone feels like they are scared of being left they may seek out people who they feel like have abandonment issues. If a person has issues validating themselves they may seek out the person who tells them all the right things. But just because those people sought out individuals to fill their needs doesn’t mean they have any intention to fulfill the needs of the other person. In extreme situations, the person won’t just be selfish, but they could become manipulative and take their insecurities and fears out on you.

  • I normalized red flags

“Oh my gosh, I didn’t see it coming.” Ok sis, but like, really? Maybe it’s just me but I have issues trusting my intuition. I’ve definitely heard some OFF the wall shit, and then I normalized it. “If you cheat on me I’ll kill you” is an OBVIOUS red flag that I’m ashamed to admit I normalized. The amount of times I’ve had a man say that to me is bothersome, not because I believed they’d do it, but because that red flag means that they don’t value me. First off, why would someone assume without reason that I would cheat (projection much?). Secondly, why would someone think that they are entitled to end my life because I hurt their feelings?  A less extreme example is someone who doesn’t like any of my friends. Please feel free to argue me on this, but I feel like my friends are my friends for a reason. If someone dislikes all of my friends either I seriously have issues, and/or they don’t actually like me. Moral of the story, trust your gut.

  • I saw myself as regular

I spent my entire life internalizing the expression “you have to work twice as hard as them to get half of what they got, and if you’re a Black woman you gotta work even harder.” Whenever I would have high achievements they were always brushed off as things that I was SUPPOSED to do. Perhaps I just wanted to be humble, but I really ended up under-valuing myself. I am an intelligent Black Women, with two degrees, a great career, and I’m a cutie to boot. No these things do not define me, but they tell a story of a woman who has defied odds to make her dreams come true. I am not “regular.” I actively try to go above and beyond to better my mind, body, and spirit. Yes, a person may choose to date me, but not because I am “lucky.” No, I walked through the door worthy and deserving of respect and quality. I do believe so long as you exist, regardless of your level of privilege or background, that you are deserving of kindness and respect.

 

Now I have A LOT more to learn, and maybe I have a few more frogs to kiss (ew). But I hope that this list of some of the mistakes I made during dating helps Y’all. I’d love to hear back from you all, so please leave a comment letting me know what you’ve learned from dating/relationships!

Damn, I’m a Pick-Me Ass Bitch

A “Pick Me Ass Bitch,” by definition is the “woman” who tries too hard to be liked (Men can be pick-mes, but this ain’t for them right now). She will compromise her independence, her self-esteem, and her self-respect for the opportunity to be chosen. Some examples of Pick-Mes are Phylicia Rashad, in the case of defending Bill Cosby’s rapist ass, and Erykah Badu arguing that Teenage girls need to ‘cover up’ so as not to distract male teachers. “Pick Mes” are women who are conditioned to internalize misogyny and changes their behavior to fit the narratives of a sexist society. Growing up in the rural South, I was surrounded by religious propaganda that conditioned me to internalize self-hate. Statements like “Don’t be easy” and “Boys don’t want a woman who has been used” were the main motivation for me wanting to be a virgin till marriage. I felt as though that’s how I would gain a man who respected me, by being “worthy” of “respect.”

Then I was raped… I found that living in a world where I internalized misogyny became difficult for me; how was I supposed to heal when in the back of my head, I felt as though my value had decreased. On one hand, I believed it wasn’t my fault, I was completely covered up, I wasn’t a “whore.” But in the back of my head I remembered the details, I had “no business being intoxicated,” why was I even at a boy’s home? I faced a rude awakening that existing as a woman, as my own woman, meant existing outside of other people’s expectations of me.

Now as a grown ass woman living in New York, surrounded by people who are “sex-positive,” I feel as though I am still unpacking my pick-me ways. Yes, my environment has changed, the narrative has changed, but I still found myself performing the same song & dance. For most of my life, I’ve had issues with my self-esteem, and finding “self-validation.” For as long as I could remember I would talk to my friends about every single thought, feeling, emotion, and response. I’d look at them as my stamp of approval, the people to prove I wasn’t crazy. When I dated men, I tried so hard to not fit into the “crazy” or “jaded” archetype.

In my last relationship, I think I went in with the subconscious thought that it was my job to compromise who I was. I had committed to him, so I had to be comfortable with the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with me showing too much flesh. I had made a commitment to him, so I get why he wouldn’t want me to be friends with males I’ve had sex with. He was my man, so I had to be understanding of why he was uncomfortable with my sex worker past. I felt like I owed him countless explanations, I owed him undeserved vulnerability, and that I owed it to him to shrink myself. But damn Y’all, I gave that man an inch and he took a WHOLE mile. When I cut my hair, he told me I looked like a man and expressed an issue with the fact that I didn’t “consult” him first. When I had sex with someone else after he broke up with me, he expressed he didn’t understand how I could be so ‘easy’ if I had been raped. The micromanagement only increased over time, and I was punished for standing up for myself or confiding in my friends and family.

Now, I’m at a very similar place as I was when I was 18, trying to figure out how to heal. After I left him I internalize his messages: “Good luck finding someone that will deal with you.” He made me feel like because of who I am and who I was that I had something to be ashamed of. The next guy I dated I found myself trying to do everything to appease him. He was surprised when I wore a crop top, so I changed it (even though he said it was fine). I kept my past hidden from him, “He doesn’t need to know the ‘dirty’ parts of you that made you who you are.” Eventually, when it came time to commit, I truly don’t think I was ready. But so many of my friends seemed happy with him, and I figured that I was stupid for dating so many “bad guys” that why shouldn’t I give a “nice guy” a chance? Then very shortly after he asked me for a relationship, he ghosted me. Immediately I blamed myself. I figured it was because of the times I was too annoying, too affectionate, too attentive, too me.

I felt destroyed, I felt like my ex was right. I wasn’t able to keep him, and I wasn’t able to keep the next guy. I didn’t begin to snap out of my funk until I realized that it’s really hard to mess up the “right thing.” That no guy who REALLY likes you sits at home and thinks: “Damn, shawty type bad and I deadass like her, but, she was too affectionate, so I ghosted.” Maybe men don’t prefer the affectionate type, but a person who is invested in and values you won’t just ghost you. Once I accepted that I realized that being ghosted hurt not because I really liked him, but because just like he was probably using me to validate himself, I was doing the same. I allowed myself to commit when I wasn’t ready and almost agreed to a situation I felt tricked into (that’s another story) because I was seeking validation that I could keep a man. I wanted to feel worthy, and I wanted to believe that I was able to pick a “good guy.”

Y’all, just like 18-year-old Monisha had to do, 23-year old Monisha is working to undo her pick-me programming. Very shortly after I was raped, a man told me that if I had a dominant man in my life that I probably wouldn’t have been in that situation. I don’t think I’ve talked about how I internalized that things that happened to me were my fault. I don’t think I’ve owned up to the fact that in some cases I date men who are more “traditional” because I lack the self-esteem to combat my internal feelings of incompetence. I think I still have a lot of “pick-me” in me because I’m scared Y’all. I’m scared of being alone, I’m scared that I won’t have to protect myself, I’m scared that I’ll always have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”
When I have daughters, I hope I can raise them to have more faith in themselves than I did. Cause nothing for nothing, I don’t want to raise daughters, I need to raise women. I need to raise girls who don’t internalize that they are incapable of being their own person, I need to raise myself to internalize that I am cable of being my own person. It’s a process, I am healing, I am transforming.

Why Monogamy?

As of lately the concept of monogamy has been making me feel extremely uncomfortable. The thought of “belonging” to someone just doesn’t sound as romantic as it used to. The feeling of “jealous” never hit me in the way that it hits others, but now I don’t even want to have anything to do with it. I don’t have a fear of commitment, and I definitely still imagine what my wedding day will look like (Vera Wang can I get a discount or nah?). But the idea that there’s only one right way to have a romantic relationship with someone seems a bit outdated to me. It’s worth mentioning that I’m still pretty knee high to a grasshopper in regards to my years of dating experience, however I hope that my perspective can at the very least start a conversation.

All of my relationships have been monogamous, not necessarily because I wanted it (I was indifferent). In those relationships one of the major issues that I have encountered was the inability to adapt to change and find balance (this is on both sides). Two of my most serious relationships were abusive (the first and the most recent), and the two in the middle I acknowledge I either hold a significant amount of fault. The two abusive relationships were riddled with jealousy and insecurity, I was constantly being punished for the following reasons:

  • If I went out with my friends (to a bar or a club)
  • If I posted on social media
  • Having an instagram
  • Having male friends
  • Etc.

Now, I don’t blame monogamy for those relationships failing (those men were the problem not monogamy). But I can’t help but notice insecurity and jealousy being reoccurring issues, regardless of if the relationship was toxic or not. Moving into my healthier relationships with men, I chalk a lot of the issues up with my immaturity. I was expressive about my concerns and I was really honest, however I should have left when I realized I wasn’t satisfied (we live and we learn). Towards the end of those relationships Polyamory was attempted (and failed), but it did teach me that I was capable of caring about multiple people at once.

My only healthy experiences with Polyamory have been while I am dating around, because I don’t date just one person until it’s verbally agreed upon to enter a relationship. Before I get into a relationship I find that dating for me is fine for both parties, and the concept of monogamy is something that ends up freaking me out rather than exciting me. I’ve found that once monogamy happens people’s expectations change along with their motivation. You begin to “belong” to someone, they begin to act as those they are entitled to authority over your life. Slowly we all regress into childlike states, and basically become like toddlers in relationships. I think we start to objectify our partners unknowingly, and our expectations become unrealistic. Some of us want unreasonable amounts of time, unfair amounts of physical touch, unrealistic acts of service.

Sometimes I become so nostalgic of the point before monogamy happened. I spent more time focused on impressing the person and bonding with them. Knowing that I wasn’t owed their time and accepted that I might not have all of them didn’t bother me. I found it complimentary that they found me significant to see on a recurring basis (even though there’s the rest of the world). Before monogamy kicked in I felt as though the expectations were fair, and requirements of time were responsible. Before monogamy interactions felt fluid, they’d adapt and change as needed. Which isn’t to say Polyamory is a-ok either, there are definitely people who masquerade as “poly” when in reality they are just non-monogamous. But what I’ve found in a lot of my poly friends is there are many more conversations, there’s a lot more questions, and there’s a bit more compromise.

I’m not really sure if Polyamory is any better than monogamy, I guess I’ll write about it if I ever try it. But I do think we have to begin having more fair conversations about what works and what doesn’t work in relationships. Times are changing, and so are our situations. I don’t think monogamy is for everyone, just like I don’t think being polygamous is our final solution. I do think that in order for us to drop the 40-50% divorce rate in America, we have to be open to change.

When You Want To Leave, But You Just Can’t Let Go

If you sit at your desk and constantly imagine a world without them, is it really a redeeming factor that you don’t want to think of life without them? Or is it saddening that you’re too distracted with thoughts of what happiness could look that you can’t focus on work; you have these thoughts regularly. 

When you’re constantly feeling beaten down by friends who call you stupid for staying, or tell you that you deserve much better. When you constantly want to spend time alone or disassociate when you listen to people speak. It’s not that you don’t care what they have to say, it’s that you’re constantly beating yourself up inside already.

When you try to look for reasons why you stay, and the fact that you can’t think of any leaves you feeling low. When there are a thousand reasons why you should leave, and you can’t find a single reason other than “I love them” to stay. As if you even felt confident saying the word love; I’d like to believe that love feels better than this.

When your body is falling apart, when stress manifests itself inside and outside of you, when the very thought of what you’re in can ultimately suck the life from you. How do you find the energy to leave if you already feel so beaten down? How do you find the esteem to love yourself?

I’ve never been good at breaking up, I think I’ve just grown accustomed to trying to fight for things until they no longer want to fight for me. I’m used to comprising and bargaining until acceptance flashes across their faces. I’m used to being left, and I think being in that position has left me feeling incapable (and unwilling) to let go. I like to imagine the best in people, I like to imagine that in the end love trumps all. It’s not that I believe that there’s only one love out there for me, rather it’s that when I love someone they are that one for me.

That’s the complicated part about feelings, though. To you, someone could mean the world, moon, and stars. They could be the person you want to start your day seeing, and the person who you feel like you need to end your nights with. They could be the one who you imagine seeing the world with, saying “I do” with, and ultimately having a family with. That’s the complicated part about feelings though; those are just your feelings.

Not that they haven’t felt feelings similar to yours, but I can promise you, they’ll never be identical. They won’t fall for you exactly when you fall for them, not the exact second (and rarely ever the same way). I think love often looks like two ships passing each other in the sea, sometimes we cross paths, and sometimes we just don’t. So what do you do when you want to leave? When there’s nothing more for you at the shore? When every time you pass by the same ship, cannons are flying, you are falling?

Maybe, it’s time for you to try a new means of transportation.

When Things Get “Complicated.”

I would hold onto my favorite romance movies, and use google as my personal bible. I can tell you exactly what oxytocin is, how it works on your body, and exactly when I am feeling it. I write down poems about ex-lovers, like prisoners writing down thoughts. I feel trapped by the concept of love; why can’t I attain it? Why do I forgive people who won’t forgive me? Why do I love people who replay my mistakes like broken records? As if I was the only one with the aux cord, as if I were the only one picking out the mixtape songs. Love is an undefinable concept, one that I have spent too many hours trying to define and understand.

I wish I had some profound thought to give you all, or some answer to the exact scenario that you’re experiencing. I don’t know if what you did was forgivable or if they really have broken up with you for good. I can only hope for the best for you, and hope that you receive the outcome you were intended to have. But isn’t that the sucky thing about people? We don’t know anything for sure (or at least I don’t). Our lives, our decisions, our moves are all based on assumptions on past outcomes. But every situation is unique, right? Or maybe we are all playing the same sad love song on a broken record, hoping that maybe this time around the record won’t ski—-

I have no answers for you or any solutions. But what I can leave you with is a little advice I’ve learned from failed relationships:

1. It’s cliche, but try to enjoy the moment.

As to where my relationships didn’t always work out, when they were working, that’s what mattered. There’s no promise as to what’s going to happen, or what’s not going to happen. There will be people you meet that you fall head over heels for, and then somehow you’re left picking up your shoes from their place. But I want you to focus on before that happens. Focus on the way their teeth line up whenever you see them smile or the wrinkles that crease up on their face when they speak. Capture every “I love you” and “I miss you” on pieces of paper, and keep them in a jar for safe keeping. Take a deep breath during the fights, hold your tongue, and think about the next thing you’re going to say. If all else goes bad, go to your safe space, reach for the jar, and remember how many times someone saw something beautiful in you.

2. Find a balance between happily alone and happily together.

Some of us are naturally introverted, and others are naturally extroverted. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we shouldn’t try to force people to be things that they aren’t. But what we should do is challenge ourselves to push outside of what’s “comfortable” for us. When you’re in a relationship, it isn’t about just keeping yourself safe, or making sure you’re the most comfortable. There will be times when your partner needs you to break out of your habits, and it probably will be best to make that sacrifice for them. At the end of the day, we just want to feel special, and doing something you don’t normally do could be what makes that person feel that way.

3. Love is not a competition, focus on winning each other.

Sometimes in love, we compare and contrast. After hurt and heartbreak, mistakes get thrown around like snowballs in the middle of December. That’s normal, we are human, and whatever we are feeling is real. But love isn’t about drowning each other in frozen water, love isn’t about doing things to make each other sick. In any relationship, may it be with family, friends, or your significant other, hurt is inevitable. There are things I’ve done and said to my mother that I wish I could take back, as I’m sure she feels the same. I’d never bring those things up in future encounters with her, because to me, there’s no point. When we inflict hurt onto our loved ones, we are not directly impacted by that pain, but cold words still send chills through us. We are forced to sit with the reality that they might not trust us anymore, or they may think they we love them less. But that’s not true, life is never that simple.

4. Breaks aren’t always breakups.

So many people have accepted this notion that breaks are breakups. Not that I don’t understand it, it’s easier to just accept something is over than to have hope. Sometimes, breaks are just easier to have, easier to leave from, easier to accept. But there are occasions when we are in relationships and everything just starts getting overwhelming. Little fights become monstrous, and answers standing right in front of us can be seen past the cloud of smoke. In those occasions, I think it’s perfectly fine to accept the thought “If it was meant to be, it will be.” I think it’s perfectly fine to accept that sometimes some wounds need a little inaction so they have time to heal, time to breathe, time to be. I don’t know exactly what a break should look like for you, but don’t we all just need one every once and awhile?

5. Be patient, give it time.

I have to be the most impatient person in the entire world, really? I used to watch the clock at school, now I watch the clock at work. I’d spend so much watching the clock that it felt like time was moving backward, and by the time it was actually time to leave, I didn’t have anything positive to show for it. Now at work when there isn’t anything to do, I draw, and I’m pretty decent at it. When I am in my room and I wish I had something to do, I just listen to music and sing to myself. In a relationship, you’ll have to learn patience. You have to learn how to play the waiting game. But instead of sitting and waiting for answers, why not fill the time with something else? I promise it’ll make everything go by a lot faster.

I wish I had more inspiring words to give you. Or a solve all book that you’d only pay $9.99 to read. But I will neither pretend to know your problems nor can I pretend to understand what you’re going through. But that’s okay. My biology professor once wrote in our textbook that, “We as humans try so hard to make sense of the world around us, so we label and categorize everything in order to understand it.” When we understand things, we may start to feel like they are less scary, like we have some control over them. If I’ve learned anything from love, it’s that we have to start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. We have to stop using labels to find security, and categorizing actions to reach understanding. People are not, have not, and will not be simple. So stop seeking simple answers, and treating situations like they can be generalized.

We are individuals, our love is personalized for us. Treat it that way.

An Open Letter To Men Who Refused To Take ‘No’ For An Answer

I’d like to start this piece off by saying, I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about how interactions impact all genders. I understand that emotional intelligence and empathy are skills that take time to develop, and there have been (and probably will be) times where I exhibit less than favorable behaviors. With that being said, I can only speak about my experience, because that’s the only experience I know enough to write about. However, I welcome diverse perspectives and stories so I can expand my understanding and awareness.

Today, I was upset by a guy who felt like because he took me out for drinks and dinner, that because he was so nice to me, that those behaviors should have resulted in him being able to have sex with me. He kept asking for sex, and I kept trying to find new ways to explain to him why I didn’t want it. “I just met you; I want to take my time; I don’t want random hookups; I don’t treat girls like this.” He treated kindness like it was a coupon card, where if he said and did enough nice things that he’d be able to redeem my body in return. I’m not going to get into how wrong that ideology is; that’s for another writer to cover.

But what I am going to write about is how scenarios like that have impacted my self-esteem. Ever since I was 12, grown men have used their eyes to undress my body and scan upon my pubescent flesh. When I was 13, I was told I was a tease, because after first base I refused to go for a home run. When I was 16 I was called jailbait, because as a Black girl, I developed a bit faster than the rest of my friends. When I was 17, I was told I’m pretty for a Black girl, even though the rest of my friends were just considered “pretty.” When I was 18, I was raped, I was sleeping, I didn’t want that. When I started dating and finding interest men, it became clear to me that bodies mattered, a lot. I can recall researching articles that would tell me “Guys like girls that are naturally pretty, here’s how you can create that look with makeup.” My ex-boyfriend, the guy I lost my virginity to after I was raped, he told me “I just think you’d be more beautiful with straight hair, it’s just my preference.”

Most of my childhood was filled with narratives that focused on how females could be perceived as beautiful by the opposite sex, and very little about how we could just feel beautiful.

As I grew into my adult body, I had to learn to deal with being in positions where I was expected to explain my choice to be (or not to be) sexual. “I don’t want to have sex; I want to wait; I wish you’d respect me no; I don’t feel ready; It’s not that I don’t like you; I just don’t want to.” This became a narrative my tongue was all too familiar with, I knew how to make a man feel better about being rejected than I knew how to make myself feel better about not being respected. After I was assaulted, I was too angry to explain myself. Too hurt to be kind, and far too tired to be patient. It was one thing to have men think they were entitled to my body, but it was unbearable when they acted on it. There have been too many times when lines were crossed (or attempted to be crossed) when I was either disinterested, sleeping, or drunk. Remembering the times when I was disregarded at my weakest point, even to this day I find it absolutely disheartening. But enough about my history, that’s another story, the point of this piece isn’t about what happen to me. This piece, well this piece is all about how negative male interactions have impacted me.

After all those things happened, I felt as though my body held more value than my voice.

Sexualizing me held more importance than respecting my sexuality.

My guy friends always wondered why I had such a low self-esteem, they wondered why an ex-model and educated Bachelorette would think so lowly of themselves. I never knew how to answer it until now: “You can tell me you think I’m beautiful all you want, but if I am constantly treated like I have no value or importance then of course I would feel ugly.” The actions of men treating me how they wanted to treat me, and not how I wanted to be treated truly hurt me. By no means do I expect people to show as much skin as I do, or kiss as many people as I do. But I do expect people to feel as though my attire is not an invitation to assault me, and that my kisses do not translate into consent.

I wish that when I told boys “no” that “why not” and “please” were not words that followed. I wish that the man on the street who called me a whore during the summer, and my professor who told me to smile during his lecture would practice more empathy with the next girl.

This piece isn’t about me hating men or how they give me anxiety, there will be another author who has those feelings, and will probably articulate them better than I could. This piece is simply asking men to practice a bit more empathy, and to actively work to build their emotional intelligence, I am working on it too.

I’m asking that when a girl says “no”, that you just respect it, rather than using pressure and guilt to try to change her mind.

I am asking you to hold your tongue when you see a woman wearing something that inspires a reaction out of you, just think about what she’s feeling. After numerous interactions with men, I started to think that I was the problem, that I kept picking all the wrong guys. I thought that I was stupid because I just couldn’t get it right, that I was broken because I repeatedly got hurt. But after all these interactions, after listening to the perspectives of my brothers, and male friends, I’ve come to realize that I don’t think men are challenged to increase their emotional intelligence.

I do believe that there is a point in time when men reflect on how they make women feel, but I’m challenging y’all to start doing that today.